Monday, March 24, 2008

CHRISTOS ANESTI

I was stunned, awed, and filled with joy during the whole Easter Vigil, I got quite emotional at several points, not only at the Exsultet, which always wounds my heart, thus leaving a mark. I was and remain overwhelmed by the greatness of God, who is so great that He becomes small for us out of love.

I cannot believe that it is true, this can only be a work of divine grace, as is every conversion. Along with all the neophytes baptized last Saturday night is numbered Magdi Allam, who took the baptismal name Christian, as he was baptized by the Holy Father at the great Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica. So much has been written since his baptism on Saturday, which I arranged to watch remotely via broadcast, that I will just chop you over to my dear friend Rocco at Whispers.

Allam is the deputy editor of Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper. He has been described as Italy's most "most-prominent Muslim commentator". Of course, as with all adult converts, in addition to being baptized, he was confirmed and received his first holy communion at the Vigil. Unlike most adult converts, he was given the grace of receiving these sacraments at the hands of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.

In a statement, posted in its entirety by Sharon, Allam said, in part: "His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims".

My dear friend in Christ, Alex, points us to an article in which Magdi Christian Allam recounts his conversion, the work of God in his life. In this account, Allam says: "At the same time providence brought me to meet practicing Catholics of good will who, in virtue of their witness and friendship, gradually became a point of reference in regard to the certainty of truth and the solidity of values. To begin with, among so many friends from Communion and Liberation, I will mention Father Juliàn Carròn; and then there were simple religious such as Father Gabriele Mangiarotti, Sister Maria Gloria Riva, Father Carlo Maurizi and Father Yohannis Lahzi Gaid; there was rediscovery of the Salesians thanks to Father Angelo Tengattini and Father Maurizio Verlezza, which culminated in a renewed friendship with major rector Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva; there was the embrace of top prelates of great humanity like Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Monsignor Luigi Negri, Giancarlo Vecerrica, Gino Romanazzi and, above all, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, who personally accompanied me in the journey of spiritual acceptance of the Christian faith." "Friends, that is, witnesses"! How truly glorious to actually see, to verify, God at work in us and through us, it is so very concrete and not ephemeral in the least.

This is witness, proclamation, martyria. "The Church's deepest nature," writes the Holy Father in Deus Caritas Est, "is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)" (par. 25a). All Christians, by virtue of our baptism, are called to do all three all the time, without ceasing.

Writing about martyria, which is witness to Christ, today marks the twenty-eighth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador. You can listen to a podcast of a simply wonderful discussion about the life Oscar Romero over at America magazine, a conversation with Michael E. Lee, a professor of theology and Latin American studies at Fordham University in New York City.

Finally, there is the wonderful little story of Gorbachav and St. Francesco. God is good and works through His saints.

Dear sisters and brothers, this Easter let us greet one another with the ancient greeting CHRISTOS ANESTI, to which there is only one response ALITHOS ANESTI. In other words, CHRIST IS RISEN- TRULY HE IS RISEN. In each baptism (I had the privilege of witnessing fifteen and administering five over Easter), not only do we die and rise to eternal life, but Christ is raised again in us. What a miracle, a mystery beyond our comprehension! After all, every human being is a direct relationship with the Mystery, with God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If you are so disposed, you can watch our Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Lord's Supper, and Good Friday liturgy from The Cathedral of the Madeleine, at which I am privileged to serve. On Good Friday, I am the deacon presenting the Cross and holding it for veneration

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